A surprising announcement comes from the Marvel comics universe this week, as fans discover the fate of one of the longest running, least messed with comic franchises in history, the Fantastic Four. The news actually began months ago, when Marvel revealed that one of the members of the Fantastic four would soon be killed.
A righteous spoiler to be sure, but that seems to be how the comics world works.
You can’t surprise people with this kind-of stuff, they’ll rise up, as it were, a writhing rabble of sweaty, bespectacled rage when surprised.
Announcing it so far ahead leads to speculation and anticipation, rather than anger. At the time, however, they did not let fans know who was going to suffer the ultimate sacrifice, or how.
Later however, the details came out: The Human Torch was going to bite it, and thusly, the Fantastic Four would no longer be four, and the title would end after 587 issues spanning fifty years.
The issue came and went a few weeks ago, The Human Torch seems to have perished as announced, but the fans were left wondering the fate of the rest of the team. That fate has been revealed, and it’s a bit odd.
The next issue will see the team rename themselves to the Future Foundation. The title of the franchise will change to simply FF, and the numbering will be reset at #1.
The costumes will all be changing to sleek and modern black and white jumpsuits, and they will be inducting several new members, including Spiderman.
Of course, as recently discussed, nothing in comics is permanent, and who knows what may become of The Human Torch or the new white-bound Future Foundation in the future when some as yet unknowable writer gets his/her hands on the story and decides that the universe is mutable.
In the past, the Fantastic Four has been almost uniquely insular; perhaps because, like the X-Men, there are already quite enough characters.
For whatever reason, there have been very few cross-overs with other comics titles in Fantastic Four history. Spiderman, on the other hand, is no stranger to teamwork, as he was a member of the Avengers for a time.
How this move will affect the developing movie canon of the Marvel universe is yet to be seen.
Will this move renew flagging interest in the story? It all depends on where they take it from here, of course, but I think they’ll certainly succeed in increasing numbers in the short-term (they already have, for that matter. The final issue sold record numbers.)
People like to be at the beginning of something, and comic books labeled #1 are always more accessible that those labeled in the 500’s, especially to new readers, as catching up with the story will seem less daunting.